Regardless of your income, it can be difficult to build savings

Here are my top suggestions for staying motivated while building savings.

Approximate read time: 4 minutes

Just expecting yourself to automatically build savings is not enough

“Just save money” sounds like an incredibly do-able strategy for savings, right? Conventional bits of wisdom like this make it sound incredibly easy to just magically be able to build savings. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy (but it certainly isn’t that hard). Saving money isn’t a financial tool, it is the result of a well-built, personalized financial tool.

The expectation of just being able to save means the possibility of failure is higher. I know it looks like everyone else may have their shit together as far as savings, but believe me they do not. That false expectation of savings just being automatic and easy sets you up for failure. And once we have a few “failures” under our belts, we are highly unlikely to try again, or try new things.

Start building your savings slow and small

Even if on paper you can’t see any reason you couldn’t be saving $500 a month, start with $50. It doesn’t sound like this is going to result in having any savings at all, right? But the slower you save money, the slower you UNsave it. This is about learning to trust yourself!

Start small, prove to yourself that you can keep with it for a month or two, then very slowly start to increase the amount you’re saving. Savings doesn’t do any good if it zips right back out of your account, so be gentle, go slow, and really savor your savings account balance!

Celebrate your savings as it grows! That doesn’t mean only celebrating $1,000, or six months of expenses, it means every month looking at your savings balance, or what you contributed, and bringing that home as a win. There is a very common, and legitimate concern that “If I see the money in my account, I’ll be tempted to spend it”. Hiding money away from yourself only confirms that you can’t be trusted. By practicing savoring what you’ve done well rather than what you’ve “failed” at, you’re reinforcing abundance and making your savings naturally stickier.

Yes, even if the money went right back out again, celebrate when money goes into savings.

Carefully name your savings

If you were to give your emergency fund a job, what would it be? What is the emotional benefit of your emergency fund? What is it meant to protect you from?

Calling it an emergency fund may be too vague. If the job of this chunk of money is to protect you from time away from family, call it that. If the job of that savings is to make sure you don’t have to take on more/any debt, call it that.

The more specific a job you give this money, the easier it will be to make a decision on when and how to use it.

Consider more than one kind of savings

Savings is a strategy, and can get fairly complex. I encourage my clients to have three kinds of savings.

It may sound overwhelming, but you can have as many savings accounts or funds as you like. Typically my clients have two all the time and one or two that come in and out of existence as needed.

There are three flavors of savings:

Long-term savings: the purpose of building long-term savings is to smooth out the highs and lows of spending and income over years. However you name it, savings like this is for quickly handling big emergencies like a flooding water heater, or taking advantage of opportunities like a screaming deal on an investment property. Withdrawing from long-term savings typically comes along with a lot of thoughtfulness.

Short-term savings: the purpose of this kind of savings is to protect the long term savings. This is typically a smaller dollar amount and money moves in and out of these funds quickly. No matter how great your planning and budgeting is, occasionally something comes out of left field, and this fly-swatter account is great for just smacking down that annoying thing without much fuss. How much is in these accounts depends on you, your life, and your income. (If someone has no emergency fund I recommend starting here). Commonly there is little emotional investment with using and refilling this kind of savings because that’s its whole purpose!

Project-based savings: These are the savings or funds that come and go as your life changes. Installing a deck, buying a car, extended time off work, getting a tattoo (yes really), and vacations are all things I’ve seen people set aside money for in these temporary project-based funds.

So what would your life look like if you had a customized, adaptable savings strategy?

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